- Museum number
A head-rest made of wood combined with a long central section in the form of a club or 'knobekerrie' terminating in a carved human head wearing a head-ring.
- Production date
- Late 19th Century
Height: 15.20 centimetres
Width: 61.90 centimetres
Depth: 7.90 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Register addition "Rhodesia" Register addition "South Africa".
Register addition "Bantu".
Artist names unrecorded, late 1800s
Just as images of Europeans began to
appear in rock art, so their weapons were
incorporated into traditional artworks. In
southern Africa, headrests are extremely
personal artworks, combining practical
use – they keep the head off the ground
during sleep – with deeply spiritual
associations. Their form and design also
symbolise the owner’s power and status.
One of these headrests is carved into
a traditional knobkerrie, a staff with a
bulbous end used as a club. Here it is
shaped as a man’s head wearing a headring,
which indicates maturity and wisdom.
The other two headrests have been
carved into what look like a Martini-Henry
rifle and a Lee-Speed rifle. In so doing, the
artists have replaced one powerful object,
the knobkerrie, with another, the rifle.
Recorded as Tsonga
See: Giblin, J., & Spring, C., ‘South Africa the art of a nation’ , London, Thames and Hudson, 2016, pp 95-8
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2016-2017 27 Oct-26 Feb, London, BM, G35, South Africa: the art of a nation
- Base broken.
- Acquisition date
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: 193386 (Wellcome Collection number)